Compelling characters in a story that’s too short for them

READ REVIEW

NYA'S LONG WALK

A STEP AT A TIME

Calamity strikes when two sisters take a trek outside of their village in South Sudan to fetch water in this picture-book adaptation of the bestselling A Long Walk to Water (2010).

Nya, the elder, notices that Akeer is becoming uncharacteristically tearful, then listless. On the titular long walk back, Nya realizes her sister is gravely ill and must struggle to carry both Akeer and the water, going step by step, landmark by landmark. When they return, Nya learns that Akeer must be taken to the clinic, a journey of two to three days on foot, because she “has the sickness that comes from drinking dirty water.” Exhausted but determined, Nya sets off on the journey with her mother and sister—and that is where the story ends. The three pages that follow combine the fictional story of Nya and Akeer with the true story of Salva Dut and his organization, Water for South Sudan. It explains what’s happened to Akeer and that clean-water wells eventually come to Nya’s village, but it is not an adequate conclusion for this story that began so full of compassion, sacrifice, and love. Curious readers will wonder what the journey was like for the mother and her daughters and what Akeer felt as she recovered, but that is left to their imaginations. Pinkney’s swirling brush strokes, dominated by brown, terra cotta, and gold, indicate the desert landscape, focusing on the children’s tired, stoic faces.

Compelling characters in a story that’s too short for them . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-78133-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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A surprisingly nuanced lesson set in confidence-building, easy-to-decode text.

BO'S MAGICAL NEW FRIEND

From the Unicorn Diaries series , Vol. 1

A unicorn learns a friendship lesson in this chapter-book series opener.

Unicorn Bo has friends but longs for a “bestie.” Luckily, a new unicorn pops into existence (literally: Unicorns appear on especially starry nights) and joins Bo at the Sparklegrove School for Unicorns, where they study things like unicorn magic. Each unicorn has a special power; Bo’s is granting wishes. Not knowing what his own might be distresses new unicorn Sunny. When the week’s assignment is to earn a patch by using their unicorn powers to help someone, Bo hopes Sunny will wish to know Bo's power (enabling both unicorns to complete the task, and besides, Bo enjoys Sunny’s company and wants to help him). But when the words come out wrong, Sunny thinks Bo was feigning friendship to get to grant a wish and earn a patch, setting up a fairly sophisticated conflict. Bo makes things up to Sunny, and then—with the unicorns friends again and no longer trying to force their powers—arising circumstances enable them to earn their patches. The cheerful illustrations feature a sherbet palette, using patterns for texture; on busy pages with background colors similar to the characters’ color schemes, this combines with the absence of outlines to make discerning some individual characters a challenge. The format, familiar to readers of Elliott’s Owl Diaries series, uses large print and speech bubbles to keep pages to a manageable amount of text.

A surprisingly nuanced lesson set in confidence-building, easy-to-decode text. (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: Dec. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-32332-0

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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